Neverending story

A lot has happened in the past month. I’ve had another cancer patient go off on me about how I should be ashamed of myself for telling my story. I’ve had another person recognize me from my blog and encourage me to continue posting. I’ve gone to a breast cancer conference, and had a good friend lose her battle while I was there. I’ve had many pool sessions and am super close to rolling my kayak. I’ve found a therapist I really like and feel like I’m making steps in the right direction. I’ve gone out with the girls and gone on adventures. Including fatbiking, which included a spill on the snow. I tore a chest muscle and broke my ulna this past Sunday so I’m currently taking it easy.

I’ve been feeling very positive. Looking towards the future for the first time in a long time. Seems like the right time for the universe to take me down a peg, huh? As you may recall, I’ve had a lot of anxiety about not having any scans or tumor markers pulled since my treatment ended. I find it hard to believe that the treatment worked without verification. There are several reasons that the doctors don’t want to do this. The scan can expose me to unnecessary radiation is the biggest one. As far as the markers go, they can show false positives as well as false negatives so my doctor, like many others, won’t pull them. Saying that, almost all of my friends have the markers pulled. They’ve all been normal.

I went to a new oncologist for a second opinion on Monday. She runs the young women’s clinic at CU, specializing in pregnancy related cancers (which mine is). She also has the highest survival rates in the nation. Amazingly enough, she was a wonderful person. Made me feel a lot better, noticed that I have developed cording on my left side, and had many suggestions for me. She also pulled three different tumor markers. These markers look for certain proteins in the blood which are present when cancer is present. As you may have figured out by now, one of mine came back high. Like, a lot high. So the doctor was very reassuring that it could be a false positive, that there could be other reasons for it to be like this, but ultimately I need to get a PET scan ASAP. My scan was scheduled this morning for Wednesday afternoon. I should get the results by late Thursday.

So… what does this mean? It either means that something is out of wack and we will get the scan and everything will be clear – or it means that my cancer is either back or never left.

I did pretty well with this the first 24 hours or so, but last night the anxiety started creeping in. Both of the kids are sick and Evelyn kept me awake from 1am through the morning by throwing up all over me. It was a cycle of throwing up, cleaning up, changing the sheets, doing laundry, laying down and thinking while she got some sleep, and then throwing up again. I guess the night could have been worse, but it was pretty bad. It is going to be a long wait for next Thursday. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Happy thoughts.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dropping bombs

I’ve not been 100% honest and forthcoming in my blogging for the past several months. I’ve said a few times that there are things happening that I wasn’t ready to share and I’m going to remedy that in this post. This morning Eric and I finalized our divorce. It is crazy for me to say or even think the word divorce after we have been married for so long. We’ve been together since we were 18 so more than half our lives. We were married when I was 20 and two days after Eric had turned 21. I always felt that we would stay married for the rest of our lives without a doubt. Whatever we had to do, we would do it – being married forever was the “win”. Saying that, things were not always easy and we had our issues just like all couples do. And then cancer came. I really can’t explain how hard this was to someone who has not been through it, it is beyond what I could imagine. And as I have said so many times, it changes you. Priorities change. Life becomes something different because as a person your ingrained fundamental beliefs, the ones you hold on an unconscious level, are proven wrong. I think that’s one of the things that makes finishing treatment so hard, and it’s something that I’ve been working on with my therapist – you have to process that. Life truly is a gift. And we realized that it was a gift we could give each other. Eric and I were not happy. We had been fighting that for the “win” of staying married forever. And one day we realized, what if that isn’t the win? What if giving each other the space, time and opportunity to figure out what will really make us happy is the “win”? After all the crap we have been through, neither of us think we should spend our time not being the person we want to be. So we decided we needed to be the best divorced people ever. We worked through all the paperwork ourselves, we didn’t need lawyers or mediators. This morning the judge actually took time to commend us on our teamwork in our filing, he said it was clear that our children were our priority and that us remaining friends would help them in more ways than we knew. And we are friends. We both still love each other and genuinely want the other person to be happy. There is no choosing sides, there is no pressure on anyone to like one of us more than the other. We still live in the same house, we still do things with the kids together, and we still talk and watch TV like any friends would do. We have the luxury of taking time to think and plan. If people want to go out with us, there is no weirdness or animosity involved. We are adults, we are friends, and we have loved each other and been best friends for over 20 years. We have two amazing children who we will continue to parent together for the rest of their lives.

The second part of this whole equation is figuring out what will make us happy. It seems strange to really think about what we want to do with the rest of our lives. Everyone says you can do whatever you want, but when you’re almost 40 and have a life, kids, and responsibilities, that isn’t usually 100% true. I want to do something in the medical field and was looking into EMT since I could do that with relatively little schooling and I think I would dig it. However, EMTs make a shockingly small amount which isn’t great. I would really love to be a nurse but I didn’t think I could afford to go to school for that long. My parents have been very generous in offering to help make that an option. I can’t even explain how much that means to me. My parents are planning a move so I will be moving out of state to complete school. The kids and I will live with my folks while I am in school and then plan to move close to wherever Eric settles when I am done. This gives me time to focus on school and him time to travel and decide where he truly wants to be. He will remain in the kids lives and will see them often while I’m in school. Last week I registered for college and I am studying every day for the assessment test I have to take before I can get started. Quadratic equations and factoring polynomials are super fun, let me tell you. But it feels good to start. To do something to work towards a future rather than thinking about cancer all the time. Eric is working towards his future too which is a good thing.

This morning we took Fletch to school, got divorced and went and had breakfast. I assure you, we are okay. Contrary to popular experience, neither of us believe this has to be a bad thing. And we are both going to be happy. We are going to win.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The part that no one talks about

I went to a new therapist today. I think the appointment went well and I’m doing my best to have hope that she can help me. I try so hard to be strong and “better” but the truth is inside I am broken. I’ve come to accept just how bad it is and that I cannot help myself out of this one. That is hard for me because I feel like the general population, and myself included, have a poor opinion of mental health issues. It shows weakness, it is unattractive and it’s all about failure. Prior to cancer, I had not experienced mental health issues. Of course I thought I had hard times, I thought I had struggled and knew myself well. But the past year and a half have shown me an entire new universe. This one has tested me in ways that I never knew. It is common for cancer patients to have some of their worst times after treatment is finished and I’m finding this to be the case for me.

There are really too many things to even describe, but a large part of it is my certainty that the cancer is coming back. There is not a fiber of my being that doesn’t believe it’s coming back and it is really hard to move onto anything with that in my head. I had such an amazing week on the First Descents trip to Jackson and I vividly remember coming home and trying to capture the goodness I felt. Feeling it start to slip away almost as soon as I returned home. It’s only been 4 months since that trip and I can’t even recall the feeling now. I remember that it felt like “me” and now I feel that I am gone again. I remember feeling so good and I am now keenly aware that it’s gone. I have what I refer to as “episodes” where I basically become a hermit for weeks at a time. I will stack up dozens of voice mails, not respond to emails, and not be in contact with people in any way other than required activities (taking the kids to school, etc.). During these times, I do not feel depressed in the way that I am familiar – I don’t feel sad or cry or anything, I just want to be alone. I feel numb. Aware of the world outside my window, but with absolutely no desire to be a part of it. Unfortunately I feel that these episodes are becoming more common. I’ve been making an effort to get out and hang out with friends whenever I can. I feel good when I do that so I try to force myself to take part. I’ve also been taking a pool kayak class once a week. This is really the only time when I don’t think about cancer. I love being in the water, and the pool classes are teaching me to be a lot more comfortable under the water which is important. I’m also learning to roll the kayak which is something I was terrified of so that is awesome. Last week we started doing an initial roll (called a C to C roll) and I had a lot of pain from my chest incisions. The instructor said that happens with anyone who has had chest surgery but I want to find a way to make it work. I don’t want to be held back by my physical restrictions.

I think the hardest thing for me to deal with right now is that I am so aware of the struggle but at the same time I am unable to stop it. Even when I’m having an episode, I can feel it coming, I can feel myself settling in, and I don’t want to be in it, but I can’t stop it. I feel like I’m in an ocean treading water and all I can do is keep my head high enough to breathe. I am exhausted. My arms are tired. I want to stop. I want to be better again.

I can only afford to go to the therapist every couple weeks for now, but I figure that will be better than nothing. We are still in a crazy amount of debt from my treatments. My therapist would like to see me a few times before making an official diagnosis but it sounds like I most likely have PTSD. She said there is a ton of trauma and gave me information on EMDR therapy which she thinks I will be a good candidate for. I’ve talked to a few people about it this evening and it sounds like it would be a good thing for me. PTSD is really common after cancer and I am not alone. So, for now I will continue to tread water.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Highs and lows

I have been unplugged for a while. Trying to get back to some kind of “normal” existence. I am sure that at some point things will become normal, but that hasn’t happened for me yet. I seem to be in a cycle of ups and downs. From talking to some other survivors, I expect this to continue for the foreseeable future. I am kind of in a limbo where people expect me to go back to normal, or just be happy all the time, when I can really bring myself to be positive all of the time. Most of the time I can do it, but not all the time. Sometimes things just suck. Sometimes my anxiety about having a recurrence is paralyzing. Sometimes I realize that the anti-depressants need to be in my system. Obviously, this is one of those times. So, I’m taking my pills and waiting for it to pass. I am spending my time thinking about my friends who are have recurrences and surgeries and fighting so hard. I know 4 women who had hysterectomies in December. On what planet is that right? I know 3 people in treatment for recurrences. None of that is about me, but it definitely weighs on me. I’m trying to fill my mind with positive thoughts, all of the people I know who have never had a recurrence or who responded so well to chemo that it gives me hope. It’s tough up there in my brain.

I should catch you up on a few things that have been going on… first I started getting some odd symptoms so my doctor ordered a brain MRI a few weeks ago and I’m happy to say that it was clear. That is always good news. Second, I had my 6 month visit last week which was also good. My doctor doesn’t do any scans or look at the CA-125 which still really makes me very nervous. She does a CBC, exam and asks me about my symptoms. I’m seriously thinking about changing doctors simply because dealing with the anxiety I’m having over not having that blood work or scans is getting really hard. I’m sure it’s adding to my current low. I understand the reasons why she does thing this way, and my logical mind can see that but my emotions are harder to convince. She also pulled a vitamin D level and that was super low. So, in addition to the 2,000 unit dose I’m taking daily, I am now on a weekly 50,000 unit pill to boost that level. I get another blood test in 8 weeks to see if it’s working. Lastly I saw my plastic surgeon this week and I’m looking at two more surgeries at least this year. The first surgery will likely be around May and will take more skin from my right side as well as reducing the pocket that the implant is in. Apparently gravity is becoming my enemy over here. Saying that is pretty funny since the implants are so much smaller than my actual boobs were, but since the skin on the right side was not radiated, it is “relaxing” after the implant surgery which, while normal, does not match the radiated left side. The skin on my radiated side will stay high and tight – it feels like plastic to me. The softer skin on the right needs to be adjusted to match. After that surgery, most likely around August I will have the fat grafting. For now I also need to do breast massage twice daily to try and break up the scar tissue and prepare for surgery. This may sound risque but since I have no nerves, trust me it’s purely medical. It will also hopefully help the pain I have around the implants where the nerves start again. My doctor said it will never feel “normal” but over time it should have some ability to improve.

Lastly, I’ve been making some pretty big diet changes which I’ve blogged about in the past. My weight is coming down nicely and I’ve found the changes to be easier than I expected most days. I’ve cut out sugar, dairy, and most animal products which leaves me pretty much vegan. I started this in December with a cleanse and it’s worked out well. I managed to get the flu right at New Year’s so that messed me up a bit, but I’m back on track.

We went to Atlanta for two weeks over Thanksgiving and stayed with my in-laws. We had a really great time and it was wonderful to see all of our friends and family there. Unfortunately we had to cancel our Disney trip for the second year in a row. Maybe next year we’ll actually have these bills paid off and be able to go. Christmas was wonderful, we had a dear friend sponsor the kids Christmas which I have never experienced and saved us. And we rang in the New Year by seeing the Avs game and me taking NyQuil and going to bed early. Here’s to a better 2014!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A day late and a dollar short

Yes, I know that Pinktober ended yesterday. I am well aware that it is November and the holidays will soon be upon us. But I am asking for one more day to think about cancer. Of course when the general population thinks about cancer, what comes to mind but nice, pink, friendly cancer? Images of football players in their hot pink accessories, pink soup cans, pink chip bags, pink energy drinks, and that everywhere-you-look pink ribbon. As much as I support breast cancer, I am so sick of the branding. People will spend more at the grocery store to “support” breast cancer awareness, but a lot of these companies are just flat out taking the profit, capping their donations or donating to organizations that don’t spend money on research. Take a second to look where your money is going.

Also, October is breast cancer AWARENESS month. Awareness, not research, not working towards finding cures. Just making you aware. This strikes me so much because as much as everyone is “aware” of breast cancer, I don’t feel like people know very much about it. If the campaign is to make people know it exists then high five. But I’m pretty sure I knew it existed without everything turning pink. Why don’t we take a little time to educate? I’ve certainly been educated and I hope that less people have to get their education the way I did. Pinktober spreads an image of breast cancer far and wide. That image is polished, attractive, cute even. I call it the fluffy pink cancer, the nice one, the “easy” one if you believe the hype. I’ve literally had a survivor come up to me and tell me they were “so glad” that she “only” got breast cancer. SERIOUSLY??????? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad she had a good experience. I certainly don’t have that viewpoint. I realized quickly that I didn’t know shit about breast cancer until I got it. I think most people are in the same boat. We all know that it exists, but how many people even know the difference between chemo and radiation in the general population? I didn’t. Most people certainly don’t realize that there are at least 20 different flavors of breast cancer. Or that no two people have the same experience. Do your breast exams and look for lumps, but also look for irritation, swelling, anything out of the ordinary. Do your exams standing, laying down, leaning over or whatever other position you can think of because those tumors can hide.

Breast Cancer is curable! Everyone screens for early detection – it’s always okay if you find it early! That’s what we hear. And a lot of times that is true, but not all the time. Sometimes a tumor is found very early, but it has already spread. Sometimes it’s too late before you even began. And metastatic disease is shrouded in secrecy. Metastatic breast cancer patients are not paraded out in cute pink shirts for everyone to see. They are literally fighting for their lives and dealing with an overall survival rate of 22%. In private. And it’s ridiculous. They are the ones we should be talking about. Because it is scary. I’m willing to bet that every single one of us thinks about our disease going metastatic. I think about it every day.

And you get a free boob job! I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say that their sister in law, coworker, friend, etc. had breast cancer and ended up with better boobs than she started with. Really? REALLY? I love my plastic surgeon. I appreciate the strides the community is making in reconstruction. And I even appreciate that I look mostly normal when you see me dressed. But I have a hard time believing that even one single person out there who has had reconstruction has a better rack than they started with. To start with we have ZERO feeling in our chest (unless you count pain). The nerves are removed along with the tissue during a mastectomy. So that is clearly an improvement, right? Secondly, we have huge scars across our chests. Again, I know the ladies are lining up for this super attractive upgrade. Thirdly, they are NEVER comfortable. I was actually looking forward to not having to wear a bra, but what they neglect to tell you is that the implants make it feel like you’ve had under wire permanently installed into your flesh. It is nothing like having natural breasts and taking a bra off, there is never relief. And lastly the nipples. Oh Lord, the nipples. Do you get them? Do you not? If you get them, how do you have them constructed? When? Where? Size? Profile? Color? It’s ridiculous. I’m going with the barbie boobs because seriously, if I can’t feel them and I don’t have to wear a bra what is the point in limiting my wardrobe choices?

And then there is the pink. What about ALL the other cancers? Why is is all about boobs? They have become the friendly, fun, acceptable kind of cancer. Why? Because everyone likes boobs? So somehow the cancer that destroys them is fun too? We can’t talk about testicles, colons or ovaries at the dinner table? Everyone can wear pink and talk about boobies but did you know men should be doing monthly testicular exams to look for lumps? I can’t believe how many people don’t even know they should be checking themselves. Tatas are cute. Balls not so much. Is that really the only difference? What about cancers we can’t see? Brain, lung, blood cancers, sarcomas – now we start getting into those long words people don’t understand. People shut down. Really as soon as the word cancer is uttered, people don’t know how to respond. This is the crux of the issue. There are more than 13 million at this moment living with cancer. That’s living with it, not out of treatment. 72,000 young adults are diagnosed every year. We all know someone who has cancer. We need to stop being afraid every time the word is uttered. We need to learn how to support our friends and family. And we need to be accepting of all cancers, whatever color they are. I am a big advocate of combining cancers in support. I have found more in common with other types of cancer than most people with breast cancer because of my treatment. We all have different experiences but the feelings involved are shockingly similar. There is no reason to alienate each other any more than we already have been.

So, what do I want people to do? How can we make it better? Keep learning, keep living and think of someone you know who is sick. It doesn’t have to be cancer. Just think about them and what you could do for them. And then do it. Don’t make them ask. If you don’t know someone or can’t do something for them, volunteer. Go spend some time helping people. If that doesn’t work, make a donation. Do some research and find a cause that is important to you. Make sure they spend it on good things. You don’t have to donate $50 or $100. They’ll take a buck, I promise. And it will be well spent.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Surgery update

Hey! Remember that time I had surgery and then didn’t get on my blog to tell you about it? Yeah, me too. Sorry about that. I’m here now and here’s all that you missed!

I went in for surgery about a week and a half ago, mom took me in early since I was the first surgery scheduled for the day. I got checked in and back to my room pretty quickly. I had great nurses although the IV was put in my least favorite spot. Apparently they call this the “intern” vein. I initially thought that was some medical term, but nope, it’s just the easiest vein to find and poke so all the interns use it.

I think I am unlike most of the population, but I like an IV in the back of my hand. For me it’s the least painful spot and it’s not always getting bent around as I move which is nice. But, no go on that one for this surgery. I had plenty of time to joke around and laugh with my nurses and anesthesiologist before we got started. I made sure everyone had gotten enough sleep the night before and had eaten their Wheaties that morning. They were a fun team. The only bummer I encountered was finding out that I would have to be intubated. For the mastectomies, we were able to use the CPAP machine which does not go down the throat but does go deep into the mouth. That was about a six hour operation and afterwards I had a lot of breathing difficulties for several days. When I told the anesthesiologist about the details, she felt that it was possible that they were at least in part due to using the CPAP for so long. That machine uses a regular, shallow breath the whole time and does not fully expand the lungs like we naturally will do from time to time by taking a deep breath. Apparently not taking those deep breaths can cause the bottom part of the lung to become paralyzed due to lack of use. It takes time for the lung to work normally again. That could be what happened to me. So, in light of my history, I would be getting fully intubated so that she could control the deep breathing and keep my lungs from having difficulties. I understood the reasons, but wasn’t looking forward to it.

My doctor came in a little after 8:00am and marked me for surgery. Lots more marking for this one than for the mastectomies. He explained again the process and told me that he would be checking the thickness of all of my skin and if I didn’t have any thin spots then I wouldn’t get the cadaver skin, but we were planning on needing it so that meant drains, etc. All in all it would be about a four hour surgery which is longer than the standard exchange just in case anyone is reading this getting ready for their own surgery.

Then I got my Versad. It is a lovely, lovely drug I must say. I wish I could remember ANYTHING once it was administered, but it’s clearly good stuff. Here is my wonderful team (my anesthesiologist is the one holding the Versad) as they were getting ready to give it to me. I have no idea what I was doing with my face in this pic, but it’s the best I’ve got. The silver hat is required wear for the patient in the OR, helps to retain body heat.
photo (1)

And here I am right after she gave me the Versad.

Like I said, it’s clearly good stuff. Here’s what I looked like four hours later.

When I woke up, the nurse said the first thing I asked is if it was over. Luckily it was. Then I immediately asked if I had drains. And the answer was no. Hooray!!!!! Next I asked her if I was squishy. She let me feel and I was. I was definitely the big winner that day. I can’t even explain how good it felt to be squishy after 11 months of tissue expanders. I’m still getting used to it, but it is wonderful. In the midst of all the joy, my throat hurt worse than I have ever had it hurt in my life. My chest didn’t feel good either. I had a hard time keeping my eyes open and mostly just laid like this.

The nurse gave me pills in pudding which was a new experience for me but it worked and I got them down. Pudding was about the only thing I could get down actually so I was glad they let me know that right away. I stayed in recovery at a very low function level with mom for quite a while. A nurse came in and asked if I was ready for visitors. No matter what’s going on, I always am. Four of my friends came in which was awesome. I think I did a decent job of waking up, and apparently I did a lot of talking (shocker) although I don’t remember much at all. It was a nice break from my napping. Here we are:

As soon as they left, I went back to sleep and eventually they told me they were moving me to a room. It was never even discussed to send me home. I went to the third floor which is observation instead of the cancer floor so that was a first. I did have my own room so that was good. They had some custom novelties in the rooms here like instead of a remote to turn the light on, I got this:

Yup, that’s a string tied to the light pull. It was classy. I stayed for two nights. After surgery, my throat hurt so bad that I was unable to sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time. It was pretty insane. Finally after getting Vicodin, Dilaudid, and an anti inflammatory all together I thought I got a couple hours of sleep. Nope, turned out to be 40 minutes. It’s bad when the meds that knock you out can’t even keep you down. So I decided to walk a bit. I’m looking super good and made it three doors down before turning around.

But, the mental side was great. I had so many visitors it was amazing and my mom kept saying they really improved my spirits. She said seeing my friends made so much difference in me it was amazing. So for everyone who is afraid to go see people in the hospital, just flipping go. It sucks to be stuck in a room for days at a time. So many people brought me such sweet things, but really it’s just about the people. I was there for three days and I felt very loved. That makes such a difference. Also, if you do want to bring a gift, Chloraseptic spray is a really, really, REALLY awesome thing to bring someone who just had a tube down their throat (thank you again Hallie!). I’m not sure why no one in the hospital thought to get that for me, but it was never offered.

After a couple days, I got to take the compression bra off. When I had the mastectomies I never had anything over the wounds so the anticipation of seeing what had been done was new for me. I was very happy. I was actually amazed at how much improvement there had been in this one operation. He smoothed the underside of all the skin, which I can only imagine involved a good deal of scraping. But the results are so much better. I am not all lumpy bumpy anymore and have very smooth skin. I thought there would be some improvement, but I never imagined that would be gone. The incisions had to be made larger since he took extra skin but they will heal nicely and I’m not too concerned about that. The implants were smaller than I expected them to be, but I think in a good way. The expanders just stuck out so far and these are shaped more naturally. He brought three sizes of implants in to see what would fit the best and I still don’t know what size I ended up getting.

I had my follow up with the surgeon this past Friday and he seemed very happy with everything. I’m feeling good and even went back to a very modified boot camp on Thursday. I am on restriction for 4 weeks with no impact and no lifting over 10 pounds (preferably 5 pounds per hand). He said that I can tear the chest muscle easily and since I have no feeling in my chest it is extra important to be careful.

My next surgery will be to shape the area with fat grafting so I need to focus on losing all this chemo weight and get to a good size. I’m not wasting lipo on areas that I can lose myself. We have to wait at least three months for the incisions to completely heal because those are the areas that will be most affected. So, time to buckle down!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Three month check

So first things first. I saw my oncologist today. She is very happy with my progress, exercise, etc. It turns out though that the blood work they do every three months is not looking for tumor markers. She said that research has shown that that test can have false negatives/positives and it is not worth putting the patient through that. Also, she does not want to do further scans. So, we are left with my CBC, symptoms and physical exam to watch for cancer. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this, but all of those things looked good so she has officially marked my chart as NED. In the cancer world, that is an acronym for No Evidence of Disease. That’s a big deal. While I would feel better having actual proof that the cancer is gone, it appears that I am going to have to deal with and process my doctors being sure that it’s gone and believe them. She’s not the only doctor who is telling me I am cancer free so that’s a good thing. I just have to learn to believe that. I wish I could say that I am a person who believes that the cancer is gone and won’t come back but that would be a lie. I feel like I am constantly waiting for it to come back and I was really looking forward to some kind of proof that it is gone. I guess that isn’t going to happen. So, while it wasn’t the awesome spectacle I was expecting, it is a great day.

I celebrated by taking my bike all the way up the mountain by Highway 93. I haven’t ridden that far since before I was diagnosed. It used to be a normal thing for me. Here I am at the top.
It was great to feel like I’m coming back, even if I have a long way to go. The floods have washed out parts of the trail and all the water has brought in thousands of mosquitoes, which we normally never experience. When I stopped to take that photo I got about 20 bites. You’ll also notice that the sun is already behind the mountains in that picture which I didn’t think about until I had to ride home in the very dark woods with no light. That was an experience.

This weekend has been extra special because I hung out with three of my friends from the FD trip a few weeks ago. We went up to Red Cliff for Man of the Cliff which benefits FD. We had so much fun and it made me feel a little like being in Jackson again. It was amazing to hear the stories of what we experienced from other perspectives, thinking about how the whole trip changed all of us. One of my favorite things was hearing from one of my friends who was kayaking close to me when I went under in the river. Since she saw the whole thing it was interesting to hear it from her perspective. She was totally surprised by how scared I was when I made it out of the boat and surfaced – she said her thought was “wow, Mallow just totally got her ass handed to her. That doesn’t happen to her!” I assured her I get my ass handed to me at least as often as everyone else does. We laughed all day. I am constantly impressed and so proud of my friends for everything they’ve been through. We are all coming back.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Blood work purgetory and on deck for surgery

I made a rule for myself that I couldn’t blog until I uploaded vacation pictures, so this has been a long time coming. But if you scroll down, I have updated both vacation blogs with what is most likely more images than you want to see, so enjoy.

A lot has been going on since I’ve gotten home. There are a lot of changes going on in my life, which I think are good things. Some of them I’m going to give some privacy for now, but others are certainly worth an entry. I’ve been getting back to working out like I did before cancer which is great. I’ve fallen so far that it’s a tough road, I feel like I should be able to do so many things that my body is just not willing to follow me on, but I’m getting there. The chemo drugs as well as the steroids not only put weight on me, but they actually eat away muscle tissue so it’s a long road, but an attainable one. I got a reminder on Monday of just how much my body has been impacted. I went to the police station to be fingerprinted (I am subbing at Fletcher’s school and have to get an FBI check) and the officer said that my prints are barely visible. He’s seen it before in chemo patients and the FBI will most likely kick back my prints, but just keep coming and he’ll reprint me for free for as long as it takes. It’s crazy to think that the drugs have actually taken my fingerprints. I guess if I wanted to go into a life of crime, this would be my opportunity. I’ve also been spending a lot more time with my cancer girl friends which is wonderful. It’s been a long time since I’ve hung out with “the girls” and I missed it.

Two somewhat big things are also going on right now that have me a bit on edge. I went in Thursday for my first post-treatment blood draw. I will be getting blood work every three months to look for enzymes in my blood that are present when cancer is growing. This is a time of stress for any cancer patient, but this first one I feel like is even more important. I have not had a scan or blood work done since before my mastectomies back in November. At that point, we knew that none of the chemo had worked. I’ve had two additional types of chemo plus radiation since then, but I just can’t have the faith in medicine that I did before the failure of those three meds. This is the first test I am having that tells me if all of this worked or if there is still cancer growing in my body. I see the oncologist on Monday afternoon and am hoping the results will be in by then. Monday will either be completely awesome or really, really bad. Let’s hope for awesome.

Also next week, I have my next surgery. This is the exchange where they will (finally) remove the tissue expanders and I will get honest-to-goodness squishy implants. After having what basically feels like two cereal bowls on my chest for ten months, I can’t wait to have some squish. I’ve been told repeatedly that this is an “easy” surgery and I really had that in mind when I went for my pre-op on Thursday. Turns out it’s a little more complicated than I planned. First, it’s a full on real surgery, not a “procedure”. I will be fully under which always freaks me out a bit, and I am already doing the pre-surgery wash routine. I have to shower each day, wash my chest with Hibiclens and dry with a fresh towel to reduce the risk of infection. I will most likely have drains again after this surgery, which I hadn’t been expecting, so I’ve been prescribed two weeks of antibiotics to take until those come out. I was also prescribed some pretty serious pain killers so I am anticipating not feeling too hot afterwards. During the surgery, my doctor will remove the tissue expanders and fit my implants. I went with round and they will either be 550cc or 600cc. My current expanders are filled to 570cc so they’ll be pretty similar. He will also smooth the inside of my skin which will hopefully reduce the lumpy look I’ve got going on and then he will remove excess skin. He wants to leave some to be able to make nipples but I told him I don’t have any plans for those so he can take what he needs to. I am comfortable with my Barbie foobs. Also, he is going to put in more cadaver skin to make the transition smoother. The skin will be inserted under my collarbones and go down over the implants to make it look like more of a smooth slope rather than the super-push-up that a lot of people can have with implants. There will be at least one more surgery for fat grafting – this will help with the lumpiness I’ve got going on with the skin-over-muscle as well as the general shape. Expanders and round implants both have a flat surface almost like a UFO. It works great if you’re getting augmentation and have breast tissue to camouflage that shape, but for reconstruction we all come out looking like we’re wearing sports bras. Super flattering.

I will be updating with the results of my blood test on Monday as well as after surgery.

On a happy note, I went in to get my hair cut this week and it is long enough for foils so I am blonde again! I didn’t realize how much I missed it. She didn’t cut my hair at all but I like it a lot better being blonde and I am finally at a place where I think it’s cute. It’s nice to actually like something about the way I look again.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Summer Vacation Part 2 – First Descents

So here we go with the second part of my summer vacation. Adjusting back to normal life has been more challenging than I expected. I’m not sure if it’s because I had two trips in a row or if this second one just impacted me so much. I’ve been writing like crazy since I’ve gotten home. My head feels like it’s spinning with thoughts and writing has always been my way to quiet those thoughts. I will follow up with pictures to add to both of these vacation posts, but for now I will just leave you with my words. From Monday…

On another airplane. One week has passed since I last wrote and it is almost impossible to express how many things have changed. I sit here so full of hope for my future, proud of my accomplishments and filled with love for so many people I didn’t know one week ago.

When I arrived in Jackson Hole, I discovered that three other participants had been on my flight. I was met by two First Descents (FD) people, one of which I already knew from Denver. I did not know she would be here so that was a wonderful surprise. We all drove back to camp, which turned out to literally be a campground called Broken Arrow. We had a lodge along with cabins for the girls and guys. I had no idea what to expect so this was great, especially after a week of running to the outhouse in the middle of the night. All of the campers (survivors) arrived over the next several hours and everyone was amazing. We had four guys and five ladies, all with different types of cancer. The youngest of us was 20 and I was the oldest at 38. We ate, talked, played with the volleyball and hung out together. We bonded right away. The cooks at our camp were amazing and made amazing food for us right out of the gate. After eating we had “campfire” which is when we have time to talk as a group, express some of our feelings and open up a little. Everyone at FD camp gets a nickname so we had to get that out of the way. The girls were Road Trip, Blossom, Keys, Crafty and Mallow (myself). The male lineup included Spouse, Monchego, Tugboat and Scandal. Our FD directors for the week were TBD and Pleezah, FD staff were Fruit Boots (who I knew previously) and Bandit. Prancer was our volunteer and Chunks was our camp medic. Camp cooks were the amazing Antelope Jamboree and Chamomile.

The camp schedule was cold breakfast at 7 (yogurt, cereal, granola, etc) followed by a hot breakfast from our cooks at 8. We would pack a lunch for the day and hit the road at 9 every morning. When we returned to camp after the day on the water it was usually around 5pm. We would change and play volleyball or frisbee until dinner at 6:30. Campfire was every evening when we felt like starting it, either in the lodge or down at the campfire pit by the river.

The second day, we went to Rendezvous/Jackson Hole Kayak School to get geared up and fitted for our kayaks. This was super fun and felt strange to be in such different equipment and in such a tiny boat. Our equipment included a sleeveless wet suit, booties, kayak skirt, splash shirt, life vest, helmet and of course a kayak. We named our boats and mine was the SS Marsh Mallow. We then went to Slide Lake to eat lunch, gear up, and learn what it feels like to be in the water. Our guides for the week were Doobie (who I called my camp boyfriend), Mama’s Boy, Wild Thing, Awkward, and a special guest appearance for our last day on the water was Bob Barker who was not a man and I’m pretty sure would be my BFF if I lived in Jackson Hole. For the first day on the lake we had Awkward, Doobie and Mama’s Boy helping us get comfortable. TBD and Pleezah as the camp directors were awesome kayakers and also helped as guides. If you are in Jackson Hole, I highly recommend calling Rendezvous and requesting one of these guides. I seriously can not say enough about how awesome they are.

When we got on the water, we first paddled around with our hands and just got comfortable with our boats. We didn’t even put the skirts on for a little while to just get the feel of things. The skirt goes around the kayaker’s waist and then has a gasket that snaps in place around the opening of the boat to keep the water from splashing in. Once that was in place, we were going to learn how to get out of the kayak if we flipped. To start this, they were going to tip us over and we would tap on the bottom of the boat to indicate that we were ready to come back up. Sounds simple. I felt pretty comfortable on the water and while I knew going under would be somewhat of a challenge I clearly underestimated what I would feel when it actually happened. My brain went from wow this is a beautiful lake to someone is trying to kill me in an instant. I’m pretty sure I was under for around half a second and all of a sudden I realized that kayaking is not a sport people pick up casually. This week was going to be hard. I had him try again and yup, just as bad the second time. Also, the lake has basically the effect of 50 Neti Pots so I got to look super graceful while being terrified. The third time I decided to try nose plugs which did improve things a bit. I believe Doobie told me I went from frantically slapping in complete panic to “kind of” tapping. Of course it took a good five minutes for me to psych myself up between each of these three attempts. Even though I was terrified, I was still happy to be having such a strong emotion. It has been so long since I’ve really felt anything, it was a happy experience to even be scared. I was getting the “this isn’t for everyone, you don’t have to stay in a kayak, you can totally do a raft and still have fun” talk. Things were looking grim. We decided to skip the turn overs and go straight for the wet exit. Normally for a wet exit there are four steps. Not sure that I can remember but it’s something like tuck, tap, tug, and get out of the boat (which they had another T word for but I can’t remember). So basically, tuck down close to your boat (not easy with tissue expanders), turn over, tap on your boat and if anyone is close they will flip you back over. If not, pull on your “oh crap strap” which is a handle at the front of the skirt which will pop the gasket off and release the skirt so you can swim out of the boat. Again, sounds super easy. I decided immediately that I would be skipping the tapping and waiting for someone to flip me over and planned to go straight for the tug and exit. Even still, these boats are snug. I wasn’t confident that my hips or feet would just slide out and was pretty nervous. After another five minutes and many reminders that I didn’t have to do this, he let me hold on to the oh crap strap and flipped me over. I pulled the strap and swam out of the boat so hard and fast that I was digging in the sand in about half a second. I flipped around and pushed up with my feet like I was under 10 feet or water instead of three and surfaced so fast I don’t know that anyone would have known I was underwater if they hadn’t seen it, so fast that I couldn’t even stand up straight. It was amazing. I felt the relief, accomplishment, and joy of all of that fear leave me. I laughed for a long time. I felt it all. I did it again. And it worked.

This was my first day in the water. I couldn’t believe how much I felt. I encouraged others who were having a hard time and watched them have similar experiences. I watched the people who had no problem going under and hanging out upside down underwater with amazement. I was so proud of all of us. We learned some paddling techniques and played Ultimate Sponge in the water which was super fun. That was our water time for the day. The guys from kayak school came to hang out with us in the evenings so we had about 20 of us at camp. We played volleyball every evening for an hour or two and then had dinner and campfire. This night, they gave out camp awards. There were three awards for us – The On Land Award which was given to the person who helps out on land and was a pair of huge and super tacky swimming trunks; The On the Water Award which went to the person who had beaten obstacles (of any kind) on the water and was a huge fish necklace we called Mr. Sparkles; and The Entertainer award which was a large felt black and white diamond top hat. The directors gave the awards the first night. The recipients must keep the award on them at all times (including on the water) and pass the award on at the next campfire.

The schedule basically stayed the same so I’m just going to talk about our time on the water for now. The second day we were on the Snake River for the first time. I was surprised how nervous I was to get in the moving water. They tried to teach us how to paddle down in the current and then go into an eddy on the side. Much easier said than done at our level as this included going from fast moving water, doing a 180 on the eddy line and having the boat face upstream in the eddy. To get out of the eddy you do the opposite, paddling at an angle into the current and letting it bring you around in another 180 to face the right direction. There were many swims as well as even more close calls. I managed to keep it together and not have to practice my wet exits this day.

Friday was our “off” day. We got up at the same time and went to hike at Jenny Lake. The Tetons are beautiful and we had a great hike. We ate lunch with an AMAZING view on the mountain. Then we headed back to town to walk around, shop and be general tourists for the afternoon. I also had a Face Time date with the family that evening so I got to feel the love from home and watch the kids eat Chick-fil-A with ketchup all over their faces while competing for my attention on the phone. I saw a lot of really close faces and got a reminder of what the walls and ceiling look like. It was super cute. It rained that evening so we weren’t able to play volleyball. Instead we played games. I discovered this week that I am really bad at Apples to Apples but apparently strangely good at Taboo. Or else I was just unlucky/lucky.

We got back out on the water on Saturday with a put-in on the Hoback River just above where it feeds into the Snake. While the team was working on moving the vans to the take-out point, we were able to get in the water and practice eddying over and over. I felt like I had just been getting the hang of eddying the previous water day so it was great to just be able to work on form for a while without any pressure. Mama’s Boy had us really work on turning our head and body to come through the turn which not only helped, but reminded me of my hockey days. That is what we always worked on to make the fast turns. It didn’t feel quite the same, but definitely a similar lean of the body and position. It reminded me of what I did before cancer. It made me feel like me again. When we got on the water, we had some small rapids and faster moving water. It was an amazing day. I had so much fun and was seriously disappointed when we got to the take-out earlier than I expected. These days on the water were filled with challenges, but also had areas that we could literally just float along and not have to paddle. We could talk to each other, joke, splash, and just have an amazing time. Again, no wet exits for me this day. I knew that meant something big for Sunday.

Saturday felt so bittersweet to me because I knew we were almost at the end. I didn’t want that to happen, but I also couldn’t wait to get back on the water. Sunday was our last day. It was much bigger water and our graduation. I went through some super fun rapids, definitely bigger than the day before. I was once again having an amazing time. And as the saying goes, pride goeth before a fall. After some rapids, I got caught by some swirly water. I know if I had just paddled it would have been fine, but I didn’t and I went over feeling like “well shit, I’m going swimming.” The problem came in when I didn’t have enough logic left in my head to tuck and couldn’t find my oh crap strap. It became even more of an oh crap, I realized, when you don’t have the strap. Now there are many other things I could have done – lean forward, feel the edge of my skirt and move up to where the strap is, grab the top of the skirt and pull, etc. What did I do? I opted for panic. I did try three times to grab the top of the skirt but wasn’t able to get my hands to purchase. Finally, as I was really panicking, I got out. I’m not sure if I finally pulled the top hard enough or pushed my body far enough out of the boat but eventually I was free. I sucked in a good amount of water and came up struggling pretty hard. Wild Thing was right there and Doobie had me hold his boat to tow me in. By the time we got to shore I was breathing a bit better and was able to empty out my own boat and get back in the water, albeit a bit shaken. But, all in all I’m sure I was under the water for a very short amount of time and just panicked way too much. The guys were right there and I was totally okay. As soon as I got my wind back I was ready for more. Plus, I got a good lesson on where to put my paddle when I start to tip as well as tucking forward so I can feel the strap.

Onward and upward, we had the big rapids ahead of us. I can’t explain how amazing and exhilarating it felt to see these big rapids in front of me, to plow into them and get pounded with water, and come out the other side. Actually, amazing doesn’t come close. This was me who four days ago was panicking just trying to be in the water. Me who not too many months ago couldn’t stay out of the hospital. Now I was comfortable, relishing the challenge, and even taking the dunking as a learning lesson rather than being afraid of the water. When we got the the Big Kahuna, I was the first kayak to volunteer to go in. It was unbelievable to see the huge drop as I got up on it, and go in being pummeled by the sheer volume of water. But I never felt afraid. I felt empowered. I felt like me.

We had several larger rapids the last day and I completely enjoyed each one. We had our graduation where we each went solo down a part of the river and through some rapids using what we had learned and our own desires to guide us. We reflected. I splashed and got splashed, I laughed and played and paddled all day. I was so sad when we got out of the water. We had a researcher at camp so we did paperwork and interviews after the river instead of volleyball. We had an amazing dinner and campfire.

The things that I can’t really blog about are the relationships. They are too complicated to explain and obviously I won’t tell people’s personal information. Every one of us had a different experience both in our cancer journey and in this week, but I don’t know if there has ever been a group that bonded so completely as ours did. Every single person there is like my brother or sister. Every single one. There were no clicks or issues between us. They are amazing in ways I will never be able to describe.

This morning I woke up and took a walk by myself. I went down to the fire pit by the river and cried my face off. I cried for this week being over, but mostly I cried for me. This is only the third time I’ve cried since my diagnosis. This week has made me remember who I am. Who I was before I was the sick, fat, weak, tired, bald girl. Before I needed help from everyone. Before I had to make choices based on my survival rates. Before I was scared all the time. Before I became a victim of cancer. When I was just me. Being on the water made me feel so many things, but the most important was myself. I know that cancer has changed me forever, but this week was filled with people telling me I can instead of I can’t. It was filled with me accomplishing things and making progress rather than being a patient. It was filled with belief, and hope, and more laughs than I can count. It was filled with people I love and goals attained. It was one of the greatest weeks of my life. It was more than I could have imagined.

P.S. Here are the pictures!

This is Slide Lake, where we learned wet exits and I got scared out of my mind but had a fantastic time. Not much to look at, huh?

And here I am in all my gear.

Getting instruction – here’s a shot of our whole group.

And here I am after the first dunk, gripping my kayak for dear life.

And reminding myself that I survived. I did get better.

I have to give props to Keys though, she had by far the best photos of getting dunked.

Then we were ready to get out on the water for real. We were some good looking survivors.

And the Snake River isn’t too tough to look at either.

There isn’t a much better way to spend time than being with friends on the water.

Here we are on our “off” day in the Tetons.

Back on the river, lunch break.

And more good times with amazing friends…

And our amazing crew when we got off the water

Our daily entertainment, watching the kayak crew tie up the boats. Or something like that.

Here is a shot of our semi-pro volleyball

And before we knew what happened, it was the last day. Bigger water, more splash fights and one of the best days of my life. I didn’t realize how much I smiled that day until I saw the pictures.

Oh, and I think this is me upside down. So that happened.

But it was just as much fun after the swim.

And we got to go in the big water. Yup, that’s me. Trust me, I am smiling.

And then, graduation. We went down a stretch on our own, reflected on the week and went in some rapids alone.

And then it was over. I was sad to get out of the water for the last time that week. But I know I will be back. With friends.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

My Summer Vacation – Part 1 Big Hook Wilderness Camps

I am finally home and starting to get settled. It is quite hard to find a rhythm after being gone so long but I will get there. I had high hopes of actually blogging while on vacation but that didn’t happen so I did the next best thing and used my flying time to blog on the airplanes. I am going to copy and paste my words here and take them for what they were when they were written. I will follow up tomorrow with the second part. Enjoy.

I’m sitting on the plane to Jackson Hole, WY. The first part my trek is over and it was amazing. Dad and I drove from CO to Red Lake, Onterio which is about a 24 hour haul. We stopped in some really interesting towns in the middle of nowhere, drove past more crops than I could count and had a largely uneventful drive which is a good thing. My favorite parts were the fields of sunflowers.

I have a bit of a romanticized view of Canada. If it weren’t for the healthcare and winters I would probably consider moving there. I could certainly handle all the hockey. From Red Lake, we flew on a small prop (9 passengers) into Sandy Lake. We took a quick shuttle across the island to our float plane (3 passengers) and up to Big Hook. I know I’ve said plenty of times how much I’ve changed over the past 14 months, but this part of the trip made it crystal clear to me. I have been afraid of heights my whole life. I wouldn’t go on a prop for pretty much anything. Before cancer, I would not have gone on this trip because of the planes required to get there. I thought that was a fear that I would be facing by going on this trip. But I didn’t face that fear. It was gone. Like I had never been afraid in the first place. Like it wasn’t even in me. Even when we flew home through low fog that we really didn’t have any business flying through, I wasn’t afraid. I obviously know that I have completely changed, but it’s bizarre to actually feel that difference.

We had our own cabin at camp and with only two of us, our own rooms. We had a boat that we used every day, staple foods in the cabin along with 100 pounds per person to fly in so we had ample supplies. We got up every morning around 7am. Somehow the foam mattresses in the cabin were the most amazingly comfortable thing I’ve slept on since these tissue expanders were installed. I was able to sleep on my sides and not be in pain which was amazing. We made breakfast of pancakes or french toast with eggs, bacon or sausage. We packed our lunches and hit the water. Central Lake is big, with several portages so we had lots of places to explore and the fishing was great. I had lures called the Evelyn Special (bright pink with silver glitter or silver metal flake to fisherman who apparently can’t say glitter) and the Fletcher Special (blue with blue metal flake – which we all know is actually glitter). The biggest fish I caught were a 22″ Walleye and a 41″ Northern Pike. I brought them both in on jigs and we don’t use barbs so apparently bringing that Northern in was somewhat of a miracle. I had about 20 jigs taken with their big teeth cutting the line so apparently I hooked him just right. Fishing was a blast and the days went by quickly. Before we knew it, it would be time to head back to camp, sit on our screened in porch, have a beer and make dinner. I don’t think anyone has enough of those days in their lives.

The entire area is beautiful. The wildlife is amazing too. We saw a bear, fresh wolf tracks, a mama moose and her baby, and a lynx on our trip. Also too many bald eagles to count. The birds would feed right across from camp where we took the fish guts and kitchen scraps and one night while sitting on the porch, the eagles got so excited about their feast that two of them flew together, locked feet and tumbled towards the water, breaking apart just at the last minute to fly over it. The sights which are commonplace there are seriously a marvel to behold.

The family that runs the camp is amazing too. Their son is close to my age so it was nice to have another young person around (if I can still call myself young?). They are all in the throws of wedding planning and it was really nice for me to listen to that. It gave me a feeling of simpler things to worry about than what I’ve been dealing with. In a good way. Happy concerns if you will. Mostly it made me think of how life would be like running a camp like that. Being in the woods for months at a time, getting away from everything. I’m sure it wouldn’t be heaven if I was in the middle of it, but it certainly looks like it would be close from here. I can’t wait until the kids are old enough to bring them along on experiences like this. I hope they will enjoy them as much as I do. I can’t wait to go back.

On the trip I also have had some other things to think about. My surgeon’s office called and they have scheduled my next surgery for September 19th. This means that I have to decide on what implants I want which really seems like a big decision to just leave up to me. My dilemma is that I basically have to choose between the shaped implant that has been newly approved by the FDA, which will apparently look better when I have my clothes off. Or the standard implant which will look better when I have clothes on. I ultimately made the decision based on our car logic. Eric and I have a rule that we never buy the first model year car because things always go wrong and they need time to work out the kinks. So, I decided to go with the standard implant based on if I won’t buy a brand new model car, I probably shouldn’t buy a brand new model body part. I thought the decision was made, but now apparently I have to choose the “profile” for the implant so I’m just going to talk to my doctor when I get home. I don’t really have anything to base a choice on and it’s not really an einie-meanie kind of choice. Implants last about 10 years so whatever I choose will be somewhat temporary, but if I’m going to live with it for that long I at least want to be sure I’m happy with my choice.

I’m pretty close to Jackson Hole now. I don’t even know how I’m going to find people when I get there, but I assume the airport can’t be too big. We are flying a 757 in which is bigger than I expected though. I am in the very last row, but don’t have anyone next to me on what appears to be a completely full flight so that’s nice. Here’s to continuing the adventure!

P.S. Here are all the pictures!

There were fields upon fields of sunflowers, which are about the happiest thing on the planet.

We found some hotels that gave a new meaning to the middle of nowhere. Here was the sign in one of our rooms. Probably not a shocker that we didn’t use the shower.

When we got close to Red Lake, ON the roads were just beautiful.

And these signs were everywhere. Beware of the angry moose!

Here is the “big” plane.

It wasn’t super roomy.

But it did have a killer view.

This is the pilot gassing up our float plane. He was young. Like, super young.

Again, not super roomy. But I did get to ride shotgun.

Camp! I took this from the boat but I like that you can see all the cabins as well as the windmills.

This is a closer shot of Nathan’s plane as well as a windmill. Between the windmills and solar power, we were told they didn’t have to use diesel all season! Go green energy!

I found a very happy surprise at camp in Shadow. She is an awesome dog and an amazing jumper!

The first full day we were out, we caught the biggest fish. Here are dad and myself, we each caught huge Northern Pike – mine was 41″ and dad’s was 42″.

We also saw all kinds of wildlife. I didn’t get a shot of the bear, but I did find this tiny frog on a portage as well as some huge, fresh wolf tracks.

One of the small islands had wreckage from a plane that crashed around the time that I was born.

The water was beautiful – and that is not the end of the lake in the picture, we rode right through there.

The portages had boats which made travel super easy (I’m used to having to carry a canoe with us)

But sometimes you have to get a little wet to convince the boat to come off the dock.

It’s worth it though because there are so many fish, sometimes you have a big fish try to eat your smaller fish as you reel it in.

It was an amazing week and we had an amazing pilot flying us out. Here was our view over the summit. I think I was the only one on the plane that wasn’t freaked out, but we made it safe and sound and I can’t wait to get back!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments